COVID-19 and Tourism Highlights of 2022

I believe that United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will report a complete recovery of international tourism at the end of 2022. Such an opinion is based upon the historical analysis of changes in tourism revenues of the past 12 years. Even though COVID-19 is an unprecedented event in contemporary history, some parallels can be drawn with other crises. Figure 1 below demonstrates changes in tourism receipts in comparison with world GDP between 2008 and 2018. The diagram demonstrates that tourism incomes decreased in 2009 due to the economic crisis of 2008. However, in 2010, income from receipts continued to grow exactly at the level of 5%, which demonstrated almost a complete rebound. Considering that revenues from visitor spending grew faster than the world economy in 2019, the demand for international tourism will start the recovery in 2021 (UTWTO, 2020).

International tourism receipts and world GDP (% change).

However, one should keep in mind that the decline in tourism arrivals in 2020 cannot be compared to any event in recent history. According to UNWTO (2021), the number of international tourist arrivals decreased by 74% in 2020. For comparison, the decline in tourism arrivals during the economic crisis of 2008 was slightly over 5% (UNWTO, 2020). Thus, it is difficult to make predictions based only on historical analysis. Therefore, experts’ opinions should be taken into consideration.

Experts, however, are very inconsistent in their prognoses, as their opinions differ considerably. A survey among the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts conducted in January 2021 revealed that only 50% of professionals expect a recovery in 2021 (UNWTO, 2021). Other 50% believe that the number of arrivals will rebound only by the start of 2022 (UNWTO, 2021). This implies that the number of monthly tourism arrivals will start reaching the pre-pandemic level at the beginning of 2022 (UNWTO, 2021). This implies that the highlights of 2022 will be close to the numbers reached in 2019.

Considering the analysis above, I believe that UNWTO will report the following as Tourism Highlights 2022:

  • Full recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • 1.4 billion international tourism arrivals during 2022 (similar to UNWTO report on 2019);
  • $1.7 trillion in international tourism exports (similar to UNWTO report on 2019);
  • Increasing demand for sustainable tourism;
  • Up to 10% growth of international arrivals in comparison with 2021;
  • The growth of revenues from visitor spending above the world GDP growth level.

Even though the prognosis provided above appears realistic, it should be considered that 43% of experts believe that the tourism industry will return to the pre-pandemic levels only by 2024 (UNWTO, 2021). However, I choose to support a more optimistic prognosis due to the emergence of multiple vaccines for COVID-19 and aggressive fiscal policies of world governments that support economic recovery.

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